What causes pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is most often linked to pregnancy and vaginal childbirth. Normally your pelvic organs are kept in place by the muscles and tissues in your lower belly. During pregnancy and vaginal delivery, these muscles can get weak or stretched. If they don't recover, they can't support your pelvic organs.
Pelvic organ prolapse can occur when you’re young. But it’s more likely to happen as you get older. And it's more common after menopause. It also tends to run in families.
Anything that puts pressure on your belly can make prolapse worse. Examples include:
- Being very overweight (obesity).
- A long-lasting (chronic) cough.
- Frequent constipation.
- Frequent heavy lifting.
How is pelvic organ prolapse diagnosed?
A prolapse of a pelvic organ can be hard to diagnose. Pelvic organ prolapse that doesn't cause symptoms is often found during a routine exam. You may be aware that there's a problem, but you might not be sure of the exact location or cause. If your doctor thinks you may have an organ prolapse, he or she will ask you questions about your past and current health. This includes questions about your symptoms and your history of pregnancies and other health problems. Your doctor will also do a physical exam, including a pelvic exam.
Tests may be done to find out more about the prolapse, particularly if it's causing problems with bladder or bowel function. These tests include:
- Intravenous pyelogram (IVP).
- Computed tomography scan (CT scan).
- Urodynamic tests.
How is pelvic organ prolapse treated?
Decisions about treating pelvic organ prolapse are based on which organs have prolapsed and how bad your symptoms are. You may not need or want treatment.
If your symptoms are mild, you may be able to relieve them at home.
- Try Kegel exercises. These can make your pelvic muscles stronger.
- Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
- Avoid lifting heavy things. This can put stress on your pelvic muscles.
If these changes don't help, you can ask your doctor to fit you with a pessary. It's a removable device that you can put in your vagina to support areas of prolapse. But if you have a severe prolapse, you may have trouble keeping a pessary in place.
Surgery is an option for some people whose symptoms don't get better with other treatments. But you may want to delay surgery if you plan to have children. The strain of childbirth could cause the prolapse to come back.